Stalking bigger game

Spurrier predicts South Carolina ready to join SEC East elite

South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier sends in a play during last season’s game against Tennessee. South Carolina lost 31-24 and finished the season 8-5.

Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess

South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier sends in a play during last season’s game against Tennessee. South Carolina lost 31-24 and finished the season 8-5.

Photo with no caption
South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier sends in a play during last season’s game against Tennessee. South Carolina lost 31-24 and finished the season 8-5.

Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess // Buy this photo

South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier sends in a play during last season’s game against Tennessee. South Carolina lost 31-24 and finished the season 8-5.

  • Coach: Steve Spurrier
  • Record: 20-15 (2 years)
  • Last year: 8-5
  • Starters returning: 10 defense; 6 offense.
  • Outlook: Spurrier has raised the talent level, and, just as important, the program's confidence level. The Gamecocks won't win the East this year but will be getting in the hunt on an annual basis.

HOOVER, Ala. — Say this for Steve Spurrier: He generally calls it like he sees it. Coach-speak isn’t his preferred language.

For the past two years at SEC Media Days, Spurrier wasn’t sandbagging when he said he hoped he could eventually get South Carolina out from under the porch and running with the big dogs in the SEC East.

He was singing a more confident tune Wednesday.

“Our first couple of years,’’ Spurrier said, “we felt like, with our team, our goal was to win more than we lose, and to win a bowl game would be a pretty good year for us.

“We’ve raised our goals this year. We’re going to try to win the conference.’’

Stand warned, Gators, Vols and Bulldogs: The East is no longer just a three-team race.

In 15 years since joining the SEC in 1992, the Gamecocks have finished fourth or worse in the East 10 times.

They ascended to third twice in the mid-’90s when Georgia was struggling. They tied for third in 2000 and ’01. The high-water mark was a tie for second in 2005 when Tennessee fell off form.

“We’ve added a lot of players that we think are at a pretty close level with Florida, Georgia and Tennessee,’’ Spurrier said.

“I know it will be a huge assignment but we need to come to the ballpark feeling like we’re just as good as Florida, Georgia and Tennessee.’’

In his 12 seasons at Florida (1990-2001), Spurrier knew he generally had talent that was superior or at least equal to any team in the league — and said so.

After a failed experiment in the NFL as coach of the Washington Redskins, Spurrier returned to the SEC to take over the underachieving, success-starved Gamecocks in 2005. He wasn’t playing with a full deck but still went 15-10 overall, 8-8 SEC, the past two years.

Now it’s time to up the stakes. Carolina returns 10 starters on defense and in Blake Mitchell, Spurrier has a fifth-year senior at quarterback.

In 2006, Mitchell started the first two games and the last six, giving way in between to Syvelle Newton. Newton is gone, leaving redshirt freshman Chris Smelley as the likely replacement, should Spurrier again grow disenchanted with Mitchell.

“Blake’s the kind of quarterback, we need a running game and we need pass protection,’’ Spurrier said. “When those two things happen, he can be very productive.’’

The offensive line was a mess much of last year, but Spurrier is optimistic it will improve. In Cory Boyd and Mike Davis he has the potential for a solid running game.

Sidney Rice’s defection to the NFL robs the receiving corps of its star power, but Kenny McKinley can be a go-to guy while a talented signing class gets acclimated.

“Kenny gets overlooked every time,’’ said Boyd, who caught 35 passes himself last year.

“Sidney,’’ said Spurrier, “was a good player but his leaving may have helped us sign five really outstanding potential wide receivers.’’

The defense is led by All-SEC linebacker Jasper Brinkley.

The development of some young linemen has allowed twin brother Casper Brinkley to move from defensive end to linebacker.

A brutal schedule includes road games at Georgia, LSU, Tennessee and Arkansas. That will require every ounce of confidence — and talent — the Gamecocks can muster.

Spurrier, at 62, sounds like he plans to stay the course and keep South Carolina pointed upward.

“I feel about like I did when I was about 45, to tell the truth,’’ he said. “I’ve always figured on at least five more years, five to seven.’’

During which, the SEC East should be more than a three-team race.

Mike Strange may be reached at 865-342-6276 or strange2@knews.com.

Get Copyright Permissions © 2007, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
Want to use this article? Click here for options!

© 2007 govolsxtra.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Comments » 10

scvols writes:

I hate the guy, but I respect the heck out of him.

BuckFama writes:

Speaking of not being able to spell, Tusk might want to check the spelling in his own post. I count at least three misspellings. Several punctuation mistakes, too. Maybe he should change his member name to "AvoidedTheTextbooks". Regardless, Spurrier really excelled in the NFL when his team's talent level was similar to the other teams' personnel. Any coach SHOULD win when at the helm of the Gators. Copious in-state talent, flagship university. Never had an undefeated national championship season, though! It's ironic that some of the same people who villify Coach Fulmer for his performance since '98 still deify Spurrier even though he hasn't won squat since the turn of the century! Look at their records since Fulmer's championship and whose record would you rather have? Spurrier is 52-31 ( 63%) since '98, Fulmer is 83-30 (73%). Interesting.

jables1985 writes:

Those mistakes were probably on purpose. However according to these rankings the whole state of alabama is dumb compared to Tennessee: http://www.morganquitno.com/edrank.htm
Alabama has even become dumber in the past year, which I guess is not really a surprise.

agentorange writes:

Spurrier hasn't done anything but put a goon squad together that will go .500. He reminds me alot of Saban actually. They seem to have traveled the same road. Go from great college programs then screw up great NFL programs...only to land at second-tier unversities known for losing and/or cheating.

RockyTop1_old writes:

VOL Fans: At what they paid "Satan" oops ... Saban they better win or Alabama will lead the nation in suicides for the next several years. It is that serious here in Alabama. One other thing, Why is it their city called Tusk-a-Loos-a, sounds like they got the bell rung on that one! Let's keep them at the better pronunciation of "Tusk-A-LOSE-A", GO VOLS!!

vol4good#206163 writes:

I really hope I never have so much time on my hands, that I find myself going to a bammer web site just to ridicule and spite the fans there. Shouldnt his call sign be tusk's, as in more than one. Guess that follows the old toothbrush joke.

BOASoldier writes:

come on now guys you have to feel sorry for a team that can't keep a coach for more than 2 years, and he is bitter cause they have lost 10 of the last 12 games to us. they are still hangin' on to the Paul Bear days when they actually had a team and they could beat there in state rival 'Auburn'

agentorange writes:

"will go" is the future tense, CRVol.

BOASoldier writes:

I love when fans of the same team argue amongst themselves as if they have nothing better to do with their time. Post stats, talk about prospects, jump on bama or georgia or florida, but dang people get a life and lay off each other. It sucks that yalls life is so miserable that you have to get online and put someone down to feel adequate. Calm down peeps we're all here for the vols. So we each may misspell or get some stats wrong at times or every time... how bout correcting it and going on instead of laying into who wrote it. And before any one starts bad mouthing me about being a panzy for wanting a little peace on here. Research who you are talking about. GO VOLS!!!! That's all. And CRVol and agentorange you two gentlemen have a good day.

BOASoldier writes:

I'm not married so I don't have to worry about the nagging wife. I do have to worry about co-workers but they are all pretty good too. I'm just a young one at 27 and have played football or rugby for at least 7 years of my life .... and overall am very blessed. There is nothing (in this world) that gets me excited more than watching the Vols play football (good or bad ... moreso good)or talking about the Vols on sites like this. The stats some of you guys spout off are amazing and some of the knowledge that is shown is unreal. It's nice to see people getting pumped about UT football. My thing is... we have Phil as a coach for another year ... and I personally like the guy.(he's not perfect and that's why I like him) Regardless he is going to be here with us this year as are all of the team members, and each one of us true fans will live and die each Saturday the VOLS play. I just had a problem with the nit picky snide remarks that's all. Other than that ...."GO VOLS lets tear through everyone we face this year!!!!"

Want to participate in the conversation? Become a subscriber today. Subscribers can read and comment on any story, anytime. Non-subscribers will only be able to view comments on select stories.

Features